Years ago, an administrator stopped by my kindergarten classroom while on a site visit. He quickly scanned the room and my students -- a room bubbling with robust activity and children fully engaged in learning -- hesitant to enter, remarking aloud, “Oh, so this is the daycare.”
Clearly, he didn’t ‘get it.’
The end of the year is a good time to celebrate how far we’ve come, and how our understanding of brain development and early learning has evolved over the last few years. That being said, there is work to be done. Last week, it was announced at the Maryland State Board of Education that the 2017 Kindergarten Readiness Assessment shows only 45% of our children enter kindergarten demonstrating the readiness skills needed for success. While that is a 2% increase from last year, I take that data as an urgent call to action.
For 25 years, Ready at Five has prioritized a key element of focus: Equitable access to high-quality early learning -- especially for children from low-income families, English Learners, and children with disabilities – is critical to successful early learning outcomes. This year, Ready at Five successfully expanded meaningful parent engagement. We provided effective professional learning opportunities for the early childhood workforce and we advocated for the needs of Maryland’s children and families.
In 2018, Ready at Five continues its highly successful family engagement work through ReadyRosie and Parent Leadership Learning Parties. Look for early educator skill building opportunities via our professional development institutes, and the implementation of the revised PETALS language and literacy curriculum for three-year-olds. The School Readiness Symposium this spring will focus on social-emotional foundations for learning, featuring state and national experts. There is great optimism, too, about the Kirwan Commission’s soon-to-be-released recommendations for expanding access to high-quality early learning, and implementing state and local education plans.
The coming year will not be without challenges:
- Opioid epidemic - combating the opioid epidemic and mitigating the effects on child and family well-being;
- New prohibition of suspensions and expulsions - providing needed interventions and resources to schools as they honor the new prohibition of suspensions and expulsions in PreK through second grade; and
- Early childhood workforce compensation - we have to find ways to give the early childhood workforce higher compensation.
In January, I will assume my new duties as Assistant State Superintendent for the Division of Early Childhood Development at the Maryland State Department of Education. I am excited at the prospect of this new role and working with the highly-skilled staff at the Department. It will be an honor to serve the State of Maryland.
Ready at Five will continue as a strong leader in Maryland, supporting its early educators, its families, and its children. I am pleased that Senior Program Director Robin Hopkins has been named Ready at Five Deputy Director. Robin’s knowledge of our programs and services is vast and her reputation in the early childhood community is excellent. In addition, the Executive Leadership Committee has decided to appoint an Interim Executive Director early in 2018, while a full search for a permanent Executive Director will commence simultaneously. Robin will provide continuity and support for the Interim Executive Director in the coming year.
Please accept my warmest thanks for welcoming me to Maryland this year. Thank you for your leadership, your friendship and your collaborative spirit. I leave Ready at Five knowing it is strong and effective. Your continued partnership enables the organization to make meaningful differences in the lives of Maryland’s families and their young children.
With best regards,